Northern Ireland

Former Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty dies at 79

The former Catholic Bishop of Derry, Seamus Hegarty, filmed in 2011
Image caption The former Catholic Bishop of Derry, Seamus Hegarty, filmed before his retirement in 2011

The former Catholic Bishop of Derry, Seamus Hegarty, has died at the age of 79.

He died at Letterkenny University Hospital in County Donegal, where he was receiving treatment, according to the Catholic Communications Office.

Dr Hegarty led the diocese of Derry from 1994 to 2011, when he retired due to an "irreversible and progressive" illness.

Before that, he served as the Bishop of Raphoe.

The leader of the SDLP, Colum Eastwood, was one of the first to react on social media.

"Sorry to hear that Bishop Hegarty has died. Always enjoyed our conversations. RIP," he tweeted.

During his tenure, Bishop Hegarty caused controversy on a number of occasions for his response to the issue of clerical child abuse.

In 2005, he apologised to Derry parishioners for not telling them that some of their donations were going towards a central church fund to support victims of clerical sex abuse.

The Stewardship Trust was set up by Irish bishops to provide financial redress to victims and to fund child protection initiatives.

The revelation that a 3% levy on parish donations was going towards the trust was first reported by BBC Spotlight in February that year.

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